Design ⇅ Research ⇄ Sociology
Gender ⇆ Visual Culture ⇅ Fashion
Floriane Misslin
Diagramming Fluidity:
A Method to Study Gender in Fashion Photography
The project researches how producers of fashion photography actualise the fluidity of gender in an industry dominantly established on modes of production and consumption based on the gendered binary womenswear / menswear. The fashion editors, art directors and photographers who took part in this research operate their practice as an exploratory space to challenge the bond between dress and gender. Throughout series of interviews with each participant, diagrams were activated to reorganise transcripts into manifestos uncovering different means of making a gender fluid approach to fashion more visible in visual culture. ⤿2019-ongoing
The project obtained the 'exceptional' distinction in Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths University. It is currently being displayed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (US). ☞ It is now available as a book at Onomatopee.
↗︎ Diagrammatic Manifestos ☞ Click on the images to open them as larger files
Made in collaboration with [from top left to bottom right] photographer Vic Lentaigne, founder of unisex clothing label Lane FortyFive Tanmay Saxena, photographer Nicole Ngai, photographic editor of online magazine Dazed Beauty Saorla Houston, director of gender fluid fashion retailer Verv London and photographer Henri T Art.
This sociological research studies how experiences of gender fluidity can be made visible in fashion photography while it is being produced in an industry established on gendered modes of production and consumption.
The project draws on the case of fashion photography production to empirically engage with the fluidity of gender as the movements occurring between norms and individual experiences. It gathers and highlights the experience of actors whose practice suggest the possibility of producing and consuming fashion without relying on gender distinction. I collaborated with eight participants whose occupations vary from photographers, art directors and magazine editors.
The research investigates how such actors navigate a network of organisations like model agencies, brands and media platforms which facilitates but also conditions — and sometimes restricts — the production of editorials and campaigns within a certain gendered discourse. I look into how fashion photography producers respond to such limitations in order to make visible their ambivalent visions, relations and experiences of gender, and how, eventually, their practice mutates the fashion industry itself.
Each Diagrammatic Manifesto produced in this research exposes a different voice. They have in common a hope to mobilise and push forward the fashion industry and its relation to gender.
↑ Zoom from the Diagrammatic Manifesto made with the director of gender fluid fashion retailer Verv London.
Diagrammatic Manifestos = Diagramming ✍︎ Interviews Transcripts ⟶ into Manifestos
Engaging with the practice of live, inventory and sensory sociological research methods, I designed the methodology of Diagrammatic Manifestos. Across a series of interviews, diagrams are used to co-produce, with each participant, a manifesto about their approach to the fluidity of gender in their production of fashion photography.
Diagrams make visible the interpretative process of sociological methods. Placed between the interviewer and the interviewee, diagrams become a common territory for mutually rephrasing and reorganising the participants’ descriptions as a manifesto.
Each diagrammatic manifesto is made of the transcripts from one or more interviews with one participant. The index on the right, for instance, indicates that two transcripts of interviews with Dazed Beauty’s photographic editor are overlapped in the diagrams for their manifesto.
Each diagram is a fragment, a passage to another, a step further in reaching the content of a manifesto. On this graphic space, I slowly mutate, partly erase to later expand the descriptions, anecdotes or contradictions of the qualitative data. I zoom in and out of their words, copy, scan, sketch, annotate.
↑ Zoom from the Diagrammatic Manifesto made with photographer Henri T Art.
A large book archives all the diagrams made during the research process, from the interviews' transcripts to the manifestos. The loose elastic binding suggests that it can be unfolded at any time for the diagrams to be re-organised and the manifestos to be distributed wherever, whenever, by and for whoever.
Publication is a highly valued outcome in the field of fashion photography. All participants mentioned paper publication as a celebratory outcome for the produced images, and hence there insights are made visible and celebrated in a printed publication.
⤷ The book about this project, now available at Onomatopee, is inspired by this large archive.
⤷ The project is part of the show Designs for Different Futures.
Commissioned for the show touring at Philadelphia Museum of Arts (US) from October 2019 to March 2020, The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, US) from September 2020 to January 2021 and the Art Institute of Chicago from January 2021 to May 2021.
Posters are distributed to the visitors: click to open larger files ⟶
↘ Installation at the show S.N.A.C.K [ Sociology is Not Complete Knowledge ] in July 2019 at Greenwhich West Arts and Community Center, London (UK)
↕︎ The manifestos were printed over the fragments of transcripts and diagrams that constitute the manifestos during the research process and thus expose the movements within the data analysis.
✳︎ Thanks to
the participants of the research;
Verv London,
Tanmay Saxena from LaneFortyFive,
Saorla Houston from Dazed Beauty,
Nicole Ngai,
Henri T Art,
Vic Lentaigne,
the anonymous participants,
Rebecca Coleman, my supervisor for the dissertation at Visual Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London,
Michelle Millar Fisher from the Philadelphia Museum of Arts and Maite Borjabad from the Art Institute of Chicago for their trust,
Juliette Pepin and Ida Holmegaard for their precious help.